The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics
Welcome to the official MU SASHA daily blog!
First time here? Read this.
“Yeah, I’d vote for Senator What’s-His-Nuts. He seems like he’s pretty real…you know, a regular guy. I could see myself having a beer with him, is what I’m saying.”
I hear that line a lot going in to the voting season (and though I’m not here to talk politics, I will say that I think it’s really stupid).
It seems like a lot of people enjoy evaluating potentially important decisions on who will lead their city, state, or country based on whether or not the person they’re voting for would have a beer with them.
However, as of late I’ve seen a lot of Christians seem to adopt roughly this same view on God. They will cuss, drink, and generally act all “in yo’ face” for Christ. This often includes being aggressive in their discussions and debates with Atheists and other non-Christians. When called out on the sophomoric behavior and then (for icing atop the cake) informed that their actions are, in fact, in conflict with the teachings of their Bibles, they will respond in a way that essentially boils down to this: “Yeah, well, just because that’s what it actually says doesn’t mean that’s what it really means.” When pressed for clarification, normally their reasoning is reveled to actually be “I just feel like God approves. Besides, he’s loving and I’m sure he’ll forgive me since I’m devoted to him.” That’s pretty much the theological equivalent of “I think God would have a beer with me.”
M’kay, kid. So, you think that the all-powerful, cosmic, mega-tyrant of the Old Testament (and the son-murdering, earth-ending God of the New Testament) is going to see you transgressing his strict instructions on thoughts and behavior but, just before he smites you, stop and say to himself, “Oh, that’s okay. They have a ‘personal relationship’ with me, so I will overlook it.”
Yeah…I call bullshit. Read the Bible. Yes, there’s plenty about love and forgiveness and blah blah blah in there, that’s true. There’s also quite a few scenes where God over-the-top smites someone for disobeying some part of his commandments. For example, in the book of 2nd Samuel God murders some poor fellow for reaching out and trying to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling in the mud.
The reason God killed the guy? Well, Mr. High-and-Mighty had decreed earlier that only certain people (namely priests) were to be permitted to touch the ark. Remember though, the victim (named Uzziah) was only trying to keep the sacred ark from falling on the ground; he had no ill intentions. Hell, it was practically reflexive. Still, God murdered him on the spot for innocent disobedience. We could talk at length about the moral implications from this disgusting story, but the main point I want to emphasize here is that God didn’t care where Uzziah’s heart was or what his intentions were; he just straight up killed him for the physical act of disobedience.
Don’t think that sort of murderous tyranny is relegated to the Old Testament only, either. The New Testament has, as its major theme, the idea that people who disagree with God are wicked, foolish, disgusting, and ultimately hell bound. Threats and promises of eternal torment are to be found a plenty in the New Testament, and they are aimed at anyone who refuses to bow down to God in exactly the way he demands that they bow down. So no, God doesn’t seem to laid back about his doctrines in either testament.
At no point does the Bible contain a clause saying “pick the parts you like because God is a cool, laid back deity who ‘gets you’,” so all this nonsense with self-professed Christians cussing out Atheists, making death threats (or wishing death upon us), and just generally acting like assholes under the pretense that God will understand and forgive them needs to stop.
Now, why am I taking the time to say this? Why do I care if Christians match the proper level of piety espoused in their Bibles? Simple: because beliefs shape society, and only earnest beliefs can be changed through rational discourse. Want a society where women are treated as property, knowledge is seen as evil, and bigotry reigns supreme? Easy enough to do, just expose your population only to hard-line, fundamentalist religious doctrines and you’ll have it in no time. Want to undue all those evils I just mentioned? Well, muster up enough logically and emotionally valid arguments to change peoples minds and go hash it out over coffee or some such. It’ll be more difficult and take longer, but eventually through education, logical reasoning, and social grass-roots activism you’ll hopefully accomplish your goal if the people you’re talking to actually care about what they believe.
Hoover, the key point to notice is that for social change to happen, those who are in the wrong must at least take their beliefs seriously enough so as to be able to critically evaluate them. Otherwise, all the activism, logic, and debate in the world won’t elucidate them as to why they are mistaken.
So you’ll get nowhere fast with idiots who don’t even understand or practice their own professed religion. People like that merely use their religion as a thin cover for ignorance and tribalism. Tragically, once they reach that stage there’s usually no arguing with them; the best you can do is ignore them and hope their kids turn out different.
In the end, I’ll be blunt: I detest religion. However, I respect a person who, despite being religious, is at least sincere, well read, and well thought out about where they stand. I can debate, discuss, and reason with just such a person and for that alone they have my appreciation. However, those who act however-the-hell they want or thoughtlessly spew hate in the name of their God of choice while remaining ignorant of the very commandments they’re transgressing have absolutely none of my respect whatsoever.
SASHA blog guest contributor Brandon Christen, a former Church of Christ preacher-turned-atheist, was born and raised in Missouri. He grew up in a religious family, and joined a far-right conservative church when he was a senior in college. For almost six years, the church dominated all facets of his life and thinking until, in early 2010, he began to openly question its steadfast rejection of science and philosophy. After a protracted struggle with his convictions, Brandon became an atheist in September of that year. These days Brandon remains intensely interested in religion, focusing on religious versus secular moral and ethical issues. Brandon frequently engages in conversations with as many religious individuals as he can in a “grass roots” effort to spread awareness about secular morality. He also acts as a strong voice in the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Central Missouri. While he sees debunking religious falsehoods as important, Brandon’s ultimate focus is on becoming a professional philosopher and emphasizing in ethics so as to lend his voice to the attempt to heal the moral divide between believers and non-believers.
and don’t forget… other SASHA members! We are here for you, too!